For those of you who have read some of my posts, I began studying the art and science of saddle fitting after my beloved mare, Contessa, ended up with a very expensive vet bill due to an ill-fitting saddle fit by a “saddle fitter.” I made the same mistakes that I’m finding are all too common, and they were so preventable, had I known more about how to properly fit a saddle. I’ve spent the last few years devoted exclusively to the study of saddle fit, pouring through each and every book, and working hands-on with some of the top saddle fitters and Master Saddlers in the world.
This year, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Society of Master Saddlers’ Qualified Saddle Fitter Course, a week-long intensive training and examination program that offers candidates the opportunity to achieve the ranks of the Society of Master Saddlers’ Qualified Saddle Fitters. The SMS is truly, the only organization in the world that has an extensive education and certification program, and Qualified Saddle Fitters are required to have an exceptional knowledge of saddle fit and its impact on both horse and rider.
The exams were exhausting, and very stressful. Exams were both written and practical, and were divided into several sections. One wrong answer, one missed step, resulted in a failed section. One failed section and the entire Qualified Saddle Fitter status unattainable until reassessment is available (typically one year). The stakes were high, and the pressure was great. I did not want to return home empty handed.
I fretted and stewed over both the written and practical exams, and I confess I cried a bit, out of fear and loneliness (being in a foreign country without my husband, horse, and hounds). The supportive nature of the other candidates certainly did wonders to get my nerves solid enough to walk into the practical exams, which started around 8:30 am and lasted until 7:00 pm.
As the day passed, I began to feel more confident, and was thankful that my exam schedule left the actual fitting section until the end of the day, so I had plenty of time to go through the proper procedure and consider solutions to horses of “unfortunate'” conformation. It was no easy task, and everyone, some of the most knowledgeable saddle fitting professionals I’ve met to date, was nervous. The standards of the Society of Master Saddlers are, after all, quite high.
Exams finished, the examiners set off to deliberate over the candidates’ performance and decide who met the standards and who would not. And we had no choice but to wait until we received word about our success or failure. We were initially told we were going to have to wait until we received the official letterhead, but after much collective whining, we were mercifully told we’d receive word by email. We speculated about how we did, and those of us who were staying one last night at the dorms wandered into the pub to do some unwinding.
This morning was spent in an anxious state, having to drive to the hotel just outside of London in order to have solid internet access and the ability to check email. I cried once more when I opened my email and saw the news: I had met the standards set by the Society of Master Saddlers, and have joined the ranks of the Qualified Saddle Fitters as an Associate Overseas Member. I am proud of this accomplishment, and deeply honored to have achieved it. And I hope that this achievement will inspire other professional saddle fitters to work toward it themselves, because the level of education, the standards set, and the professionalism required to be a Qualified Saddle Fitter are unparalleled.
Copyright 2011, Anderson Equine Saddle Fitting Services, LLC